Get Your Laughing Tackle Around this

The Victoria Standard - - Food - GE­ORGE SMITH

I walked out of the Hall leav­ing my mother with her wine and new friends. She was not at all shy and knew how to adapt to most sit­u­a­tions. She al­ways be­haved very cor­rectly and could be both charm­ing and amus­ing when in com­pany, even if she had just met them for the first time.

I just wanted to know where my father and Julie had wan­dered off to.

There was a bar in the build­ing down in the base­ment which was al­ways full of stu­dents and very noisy. I could not imag­ine my father down there mix­ing with a bunch of long­haired “layabouts” as he liked to call them. But I took the stairs down past the care­taker’s room and the boiler and along a dimly-lit pas­sage. A cou­ple was get­ting to know each other in a door­way and did not hear me as I hur­ried past them. I en­tered the packed bar and tried to see if my father or Julie were amongst the rev­el­ers.

I shouted to the bar­man, “You seen Julie?” He shook his head and con­tin­ued pour­ing pints of beer. Two min­utes later, I was back out­side on the street head­ing to­wards The Phil­har­monic Pub.

There was a wine bar and a pizza restau­rant on the way but I didn’t think that my father would have gone into ei­ther. The wine bar was sur­pris­ingly empty for a Fri­day even­ing and I could see that they were not in­side. Then I went next door to the pizza restau­rant, which had the unique name of “Pizza Pizza Pizza”. This place was packed. It was the sup­per rush, so I weaved my way be­tween the ta­bles to the open kitchen at the back were Holly was adding top­pings to the pizza bases. He had just re­leased a record called Re­lax with his band “Frankie Goes to Hol­ly­wood”.

“I hope I won’t be do­ing this much longer!”

“We can all dream,” I said. I couldn’t see Julie or my Father so I said good luck to Holly and left.

I walked through the door of The Phil­har­monic Pub, and there they were sit­ting at a ta­ble right up front. They were laughing at a com­ment made by my father, so it took a cou­ple of “Hel­los” and a “How are you two?” be­fore they no­ticed me.

My father said, “Get your­self a drink,” and handed me a £5 note.

“Thanks.” I walked to the bar look­ing in won­der­ment at the money. It felt warm from be­ing in his pocket, and out of some sub­con­scious re­flex I lifted it to my nose to smell it. Old Spice. I wanted to keep it, but I knew he would ex­pect his change. I got a pint and re­turned to the ta­ble. I handed him his change, and wav­ing a hand in my di­rec­tion dis­mis­sively he said, “Oh, keep it”.

What spell had Julie cast over him?! He could see the colour of her skin, but it didn’t mat­ter. He leaned closer to whis­per into her ear. Were all his racist com­ments just some ma­cho swag­ger, lies shouted to im­press or to in­tim­i­date the lis­tener?

“Do you need any money?” he asked Julie, and I nearly fell off my chair. Is this the same man who told me to leave home when I told him I was go­ing to art col­lege? “If you aren’t go­ing to get a job, I’m not go­ing to sup­port you!” So I had left home.

What had changed? We walked back up Hard­man Street to meet my mother who was still hold­ing court at the far end of the Hall.

“I’ve just met some won­der­ful peo­ple,” she said as we walked out the door. “He’s a lawyer you know. I’ve in­vited them to din­ner next Satur­day,” she said to my father. “Do we get an in­vite?” I asked. “Hardly!” both my mother and father said to­gether.

The spell was bro­ken and they got into their car say­ing, “Good night”, and drove away. Julie and I walked to a small dive of a pub called “Ye Cracke”, and as I or­dered our drinks, Nina Si­mone was sing­ing I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free on the juke­box.

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